Ever since security agencies gunned down Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8 last year, there has been a marked increase in the number of Kashmiri youths joining terrorist organisations. So much so that 2017 has seen the most number of youths taking to militancy since such data started being collated in 2010.
Quoting data from security agencies, PTI reported that till December, 117 locals were recruited by terror groups compared to 88 in the whole of 2016. South Kashmir, the hotbed of militancy, has emerged as the main hub of cadre supply. The J&K police, paramilitary forces and Army have made a joint appeal to local militants, asking them to return to the “mainstream” after a footballer Majid Arshid Khan from south Kashmir shunned militancy and returned last month following an appeal by his mother.
Even, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has advocated for a healing touch policy while praising the security agencies for making the atmosphere conducive for talks. “Now, there is a need for a healing touch policy for the political process to take over,” Mufti had said. Moreover, the Centre has appointed an interlocutor, Dineshwar Sharma, to reach out to all stakeholders and resolve the issue, besides withdrawing all cases against first time stone pelters.
According to the reports, the number of local youths who joined various militant groups this year include 12 from Anantnag, 45 from Pulwama and Awantipora, 24 from Shopian and 10 from Kulgam. From north Kashmir, four youths joined militant groups from Kupwara, six from Baramulla and Sopore, and seven from Bandipore. From central Kashmir, Srinagar district accounted for disappearance of five youths while Budgam for four.
Though the number for those who joined militancy has been pegged at 117, Director General of J&K Police S P Vaid said the figure was much less. The figures of the police only take into account the cases registered in the police stations and not those that are not reported by parents due to fear of being hounded by security agencies.
According to the data laid on the floor of Parliament in March this year, there has been a steady increase in the number of youth taking up arms in the Valley from 2014 onwards as compared to 2011, 2012, and 2013. Security officials said the ideological conviction of the present lot of militants was far more superior than that of the terror groups during the 90s. The worrying trend in the Valley is that it is witnessing a trend of ‘Pan-Islamisation’ where young boys are opting for the path of terrorism knowing fully well that they are at the
risk of being killed, the officials said.
While a majority of the missing boys mainly belong to the average middle class and described as the new face of terrorism in Kashmir, militants like Owais Ahmed Shah from Kokernag in south Kashmir and Eisa Fazli hailing from Soura in Srinagar show a trend that literate students from well-to-do families are also picking up arms with conviction.
(With inputs from PTI)